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Pompeo Slated to Visit Israel to Discuss New Gov’t, Annexation

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will reportedly travel to Israel next week for talks with members of the newly formed government, which is expected to be formally sworn in on Wednesday. The coalition will be led by Likud Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and his rival-cum-partner Benny Gantz, head of the Blue and White party. Central to the discussions will be the prospective annexation by Israel of about 30% of the West Bank in accordance with President Donald Trump’s Middle East peace plan. This comes on the backdrop of Wednesday’s assertion by the US ambassador to Israel that Washington is prepared to recognize the Jewish state’s sovereignty over various areas of the West Bank that are currently being mapped out by a joint committee of six high-ranking American and Israeli officials. However, David Friedman appeared to condition this recognition on Netanyahu’s agreement to publicly reiterate his willingness to jump-start a negotiating process with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. Ramallah has been boycotting the Trump Administration since the US president’s recognition in December 2017 of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and Abbas has vowed to tear up all previous deals signed with Israel if Netanyahu moves forward with the annexations. According to the coalition deal reached between Netanyahu and Gantz, as of July 1 the prime minister “will be able to bring the agreement reached with the US on the application of sovereignty [in the West Bank] for the approval of the cabinet and or the Knesset [parliament].” Last week, 11 European ambassadors to Israel warned against such action, arguing that “the annexation of any part of the West Bank constitutes a clear violation of international law. Such unilateral steps,” they contended, “will harm efforts to renew the peace process and will have grave consequences for regional stability and for Israel’s standing in the international arena.”